An inconsistency concerning Autism Speaks has been bothering me for a while now and, in light of the controversy surrounding the organization in the past week, I thought I might take this opportunity to write about it.
There is this idea that I have seen repeated in numerous places online that the "autism community" isn't all that fond of Autism Speaks. Whether it is the "pro-vaccine choice" community, the "anti-cure" "just a difference" groups, the "independents" in between, or whatever group you want to talk about, everyone seems to say that they either don't like or are ambivalent about Autism Speaks.
And yet Autism Speaks is the largest and most successful autism organization in the world both in terms of influence and broad financial support. I thought at first that this success might be due to government funding or the like. But no, if you look at the organization's audited financial statements, you can clearly see that most of their funding comes from the walks and other retail programs. Or, in other words, Autism Speaks enjoys broad public support.
One of these things is not like another.
Either Autism Speaks isn't being funded by the "autism community" but rather another group that cares about autism and yet isn't the "autism community", the "autism community" is not being truthful about its support for Autism Speaks, or the "autism community" that is talked about online is really only a small part of the actual community.
If you have ever been to an Autism Speaks walk, I think the answer to the inconsistency would be clear to you. I have been to a couple of the walks and the overwhelming majority of people there were there because autism directly impacted their lives in one way or another.
Just keep that idea in mind the next time you read about how "we" the autism community like or don't like something. The real autism community is much bigger than what you read about online. It may not be quite as vocal as the online community but sometimes, like when it comes to supporting Autism Speaks, it can speak volumes with its actions.